It was my dream to travel Europe since my childhood. Finally, in 2017, I decided to take action and go for it. Like many others, I also had financial problems. So, to save money on transportation, I choose hitchhiking as my mode of travel in Europe.
But money was not the only reason for me to choose hitchhiking. For me, hitchhiking is the best way to understand a new culture, new places and meet new people.
Obviously, I was warned by my parents and friends to not to do so. The question that was nagging them was ‘Is hitchhiking safe in Europe?’ or ‘How Europeans treat hitchhikers?’. I didn’t have any solid-proof answers then that would assure my parents about my safety.
Also, some Hollywood movies and some fake hitchhiking horror stories created doubt in my mind.
But, eventually, I decided to trust my instincts and went to Europe. I hitchhiked in 10 European countries and It was a wonderful experience. In this wonderful journey, I met many interesting people, learned about their cultures, and also made a few friends.
During my journey, I met a lot of European people who were curious about hitchhiking. They had the same questions like ‘Is hitchhiking safe in Europe?‘ or ‘How much time do you need to hitch a ride?‘. I saw that many European people are interested in hitchhiking but they have some doubts in their minds about safety-related issues.
Based on that wonderful journey, I decided to write this article for people who are planning to hitchhike in Europe to share my experiences to help you clarify doubts in your mind and give you an idea of how safe it is to hitchhike in Europe.
Is Hitchhiking Safe in Europe?
Table of Contents
Is it safe to Hitchhike in Europe?
Europe is the safest place for hitchhiking as compared to the rest of the world. Hitchhiking is much safer, faster, and easier in Europe than in other parts of the world. Factors like a very low crime rate, quality road infrastructure, peaceful and open-minded society, and political stability make Europe the most ideal place for hitchhiking in the world.
European countries have the lowest rate of road accidents and the lowest crime rate against pedestrians in the world which is a very important thing for hitchhikers as hitchhikers spend most of their time on the roads.
European countries are not only safe but are also friendly towards hitchhikers than many other countries (except Italy and Spain).
Especially, French, Turkish, and German people are very friendlier towards hitchhikers. You hardly have to wait more than 10 minutes in these countries to hitch a ride.
Hitchhiking is super easy and fast in Nordic countries. Whereas, eastern European countries will amaze you with their culture and kindness. However, there are also some countries like Spain and Italy where hitchhikers are safe but people are less friendly towards hitchhikers.
Although hitchhiking is the best way to explore the world on a tight budget, it is an adventure nonetheless and an adventure comes with its own set of risks and drawbacks.
While hitchhiking, you will often face challenges and surprises. That’s why it is important for hitchhikers to follow their intuition before accepting a ride from a stranger and to follow some safety precautions (like avoiding hitchhiking at night).
As a hitchhiker, you will meet many strangers and you will depend on their help and kindness. 99% of people will have good intentions and they will try to help you in every possible way. Sometimes they may give you a lift, sometimes they may offer you money and food, and sometimes they may invite you to their homes.
In one or another way, most people will try to help you to make your journey a memorable experience. But, as always there will be 1% of people who don’t have good intentions. So, always remember to take some safety precautions while hitchhiking and trust your instincts.
Is Europe safe for Female Hitchhikers?
Europe is the safest place for female hitchhikers compared to the rest of the world but as you know women safety still remains a major concern in the 21st century
I met many female hitchhikers while my journey in Europe. I have to admit I haven’t seen so many female hitchhikers in any other part of the world that I have seen in Europe.
They were hitchhiking without any fear but obviously, they were following more safety precautions than male hitchhikers.
In Europe, views about gender equality are quite advanced but still, incidents like rapes and female abuse are not rare.
So, even though Europe is safe for female hitchhikers still you have to follow some extra safety precautions (like avoiding hitchhiking at night).
Especially, Turkey is not safe for female hitchhikers, especially for western girls. While hitchhiking, many female hitchhikers have faced harassment and abuse in turkey.
Why Europe is the Safest place for Hitchhiking?
Now, let me share some facts to explain why Europe has a special place in the heart of so many hitchhikers and why it is the safest place for hitchhiking in the world.
Quality Road Infrastructure
European countries are small and these countries are internally well-connected with quality road infrastructure.
According to a study done by the state of California, road accidents are the biggest threat to hitchhikers since hitchhikers spend most of their time on the roads or inside a vehicle that’s why hitchhikers are much more prone to road accidents.
So, the quality of road infrastructure affects significantly the safety of hitchhikers.
Fortunately, in Europe, due to quality road infrastructure and good implementation of traffic laws, Europe has the lowest death rate by road accidents and lowest crime rate against pedestrians in the world.
This quality road infrastructure is the reason why hitchhiking is so safe, faster, and easier in Europe.
In most European countries motorways are the fastest medium to travel around the country and it is quite easy to hitchhike from on-ramps or service stations of these motorways.
Peace and Stability of Region
Hitchhiking connects you to local people and enables to explore their culture up close, but hitchhiking also connects you to the problems of the local people.
For example, if you are hitchhiking in a place with a high crime rate then obviously there is a high probability that you may come across some bad people along the way.
That’s why the peace and stability of an area affect significantly the safety of the hitchhiker.
When it comes to Europe, it is the safest region in the world for tourists. Europe has the lowest crime rate in the world and European society is famous for its open-minded, peaceful, and liberal views.
Violent crimes against pedestrians/hitchhikers are quite rare in Europe.
According to the Global Peace Index, there are 21 European countries in the top 30 safest countries in the world, making Europe the safest region in the world.
Europe is a politically stable region and incidents like terrorist attacks and riots are too rare. These are the reasons why European countries attract millions of tourists every year from around the world.
The attitude of Society towards Hitchhikers
In the USA, law enforcement officers usually don’t like hitchhikers. Many people including law enforcement officers look suspiciously towards hitchhikers, and hitchhiking is even prohibited in some states of the USA.
In some countries, hitchhikers can face harassment on the basis of gender, religion, or race. Especially, female hitchhikers come across such situations much often in some countries due to gender inequality.
So, the attitude of society towards hitchhikers is also a very important thing from a safety point of view.
When it comes to Europe, generally, people are much friendly towards hitchhikers.
Hitchhiking is not rare in Europe. Especially in Germany and France, you will see it is common for people to stand on the side of the road for hitchhiking.
Especially, Turkish, French, and German people are very friendly towards hitchhikers.
In Europe, the crime rate against pedestrians is the lowest in the world.
In Germany, many organizations are working to change society’s perception of hitchhikers. In the case of France, the only obstacle between drivers and hitchhikers is the language barrier. In Turkey, hitchhikers are often amazed by the hospitality of the local people.
It is no secret that European society is far more liberal, peaceful, and open-minded as compared to other parts of the world. Especially, Nordic countries are very peaceful and also one of the easiest and safest countries to hitchhike (also for women travelers).
Waiting Time for Hitchhikers to get a ride
Hitchhiking is much common in Europe than you think (except in Italy and Spain). The average waiting time for hitchhikers to get a ride in Europe is much less than in other parts of the world.
But, obviously, the waiting time to get a ride varies from country to country in Europe.
Some countries like Germany, Romania, Netherlands, Denmark, Turkey, and Albania are more hitchhiking friendly, and more often than not you will get a ride in less than 10 minutes.
Countries like France, UK, Turkey, Poland, and Bulgaria are also good options and the average waiting time in these countries lies between 40 to 60 minutes.
You have to wait much longer in some countries including Spain, Italy, Portugal, Austria, and Croatia where the average waiting time is 90 minutes.
But, always keep in mind that the location that you choose for thumbing affects significantly on the time you spend to hitch a ride. Read this article to understand how to select a perfect location for hitchhiking.
No Discrimination on the Basis of Religion or Color
It is no secret that discrimination is an ugly truth that still exists in many parts of the world. We humans like to hate each other on the basis of color, religion, or race.
Hitchhikers often go to a foreign land and come in contact with many strangers. Personally, I haven’t experienced any abuse or harassment in my journey. But some hitchhikers have faced abuse in different parts of the world on the basis of religion, caste, color, race, or nationality.
I will again repeat that as a hitchhiker you will meet only 1% of people with bad intentions. You should focus on that 99% of people who have helped you to create sweet memories.
In the case of Europe, you will find people of all religions, colors, and nationalities living together.
It is no secret that Europe is one of the most pluralistic societies in the world, so generally, you won’t face any discrimination on the European roads on the basis of religion, color, or nationality.
Personally (as a south Asian), I found western Europe and Nordic countries quite open-minded and liberal.
My personal experience
I did hitchhike in 10 European countries in 2017 and it was my best hitchhiking experience.
Hitchhiking was quite easy in Europe. Especially, hitchhiking was superfast in Turkey, Germany, and France. I hardly had to wait more than 10-20 minutes to get a ride in these countries.
I don’t think I can say enough on why I think Europe is the safest region for hitchhiking in the world. In my entire journey, I never faced any dangers or abuse, on the contrary, I witnessed the kindness and helping nature of the people.
Especially, hitchhiking in Eastern Europe was a great experience for me. People were very kind to me there. I found people in metropolitan cities were less cooperative than rural areas (maybe because of their busy and faster lifestyle).
Some people offered me money and food while some people invited me for homestays. Especially in France, many local people offered me money and food.
I had some bad experiences in Paris but as I mentioned earlier there will always be 1% of people who don’t have good intentions. As a hitchhiker, you should learn to neglect such bad experiences and focus on good ones.
Hitchhiking in Europe is fun, safe, and an amazing way to explore how Europeans go about their lives. If you are a beginner I would suggest you to start with Ireland or Germany as these countries are very friendly towards hitchhikers and you won’t face any language barrier as most people understand or talk English.
Once you get the hang of it then there’s no stopping you from exploring the world even if you are on a shoestring budget.
If you have ever hitchhiked in Europe, please let us know in the comment section. We would love to hear about your experience of hitchhiking in Europe.